Sunday, August 14, 2022

The Parable of the Talents: Well Done Good and Faithful Servant!

"Time is the inexplicable raw material of everything. With it, all is possible; without it, nothing. The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning, and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions... No one can take it from you. It is not something that can be stolen. And no one receives either more or less than you receive. Moreover, you cannot draw on its future. Impossible to get into debt! You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste tomorrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you.

You have to live on this twenty-four hours of daily time. Out of it you have to spin health, pleasure, money, content, respect, and the evolution of your immortal soul. Its right use, its most effective use, is a matter of the highest urgency and of the most thrilling actuality. All depends on that. Your happiness -- the elusive prize that you are all clutching for, my friends -- depends on that.

If one cannot arrange that an income of twenty-four hours a day shall exactly cover all proper items of expenditure, one does muddle one's whole life indefinitely. We shall never have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is."
-Arnold Bennett, Bits & Pieces, March 4, 1993, p. 18-20.

Our Parable today occurs in the book of Matthew in the 25th chapter, just before our parable from last week, the parable of the sheep and the goats. In the chapter 25 as we talked about last week, we’re looking at parables in regard to the final judgment. This parable is no different. We’re being taught by Jesus here, how we should be prepared for his second coming.

At the beginning of the chapter, we see the parable of the ten virgins. Five are wise, and five are unwise, the wise are ready for Christ’s return, the unwise are not. In the parable of the sheep and goats, the sheep have served Jesus faithfully on the Earth by meeting the practical needs of those around them, the goats have not.

And in our parable today, we see servants of a master, some who are wise, and one who is not.

And the question we should each be asking ourselves is, as I make decisions in my life, and exercise my free will, which path am I choosing? Am I choosing the wise path or the dead end path? It all comes down to how we decide to respond to Christ and what he commands us to do and be.

Let’s take a look at our parable, from Matthew chapter 25, verses 14-30. As a side note, this parable also occurs in Luke 19:11–27, in a slightly different form.

The scripture says this: “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.”

Pause there. I’m reading from the NLT. The NIV renders it as “bags of gold” while the NASB renders it “talents.” I understand why the NIV and NLT are rendering it that way, but I want to consider the word talent. What is a talent? A “talent” or talentan in the Greek, was a unit of measurement for about 80 lbs, and in particular a talent was referencing a weight of 80 lbs of silver. That may be why the NIV renders it silver. But as a unit of currency, it would be referencing an amount of 6,000 denarii. To understand that value, one denarii in the ancient world was equal to one day’s wages. A single talent then, is actually valued at about 20 years of labor. So, say you made 30,000 a year, the amount of 1 talent would be $600,000.

So, it’s apparent what God gives us, is of extreme value. What does he give us? We’ll get there in a minute. But consider the amounts he’s giving, to the first servant, he gave 5 bags of silver, five talents, so if we’re going off our base scale here, 30,000 a year, about 2.5 million dollars.

I also want you to notice that it says he divided in it proportion to their abilities. Very important.

Then it says, “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money."

So the three servants make their various choices with the money they’ve been entrusted with, the first earned five more, the second two more, and the third hid the money. 

It continues, “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!
22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’
23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

The master was gone a long time, and in the parable of the talents in Luke, it’s similar, in fact the parable is explained as being told, because they were near Jerusalem, and many of them were expecting Jesus to immediately take power and overthrow the romans and claim his seat as king of the nation. And Jesus tells them the parable to explain how it’s actually going to work.

The master is gone a long time. Then, he finally returns, the moment we’re all waiting for. This is the moment I’m building my life for. I hope you are too. The moment when either you die of old age, or Jesus returns, whichever comes first, and we stand before God to explain our lives.

For the first two servants, this day is everything they could’ve hoped for. They received the money they were given, and made use of it in the world, and brought a return to their master.

They are returning double, they were given 2 talents, they returned 4 talents, they were given 5, they return 10.

It’s interesting though in Mark 4:20 in the parable of the soil, it says, "And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!””

Our harvest can be very plentiful indeed!

How does the master respond to the servants who have completed their mission? He says to them “well done good and faithful servant.” We as Christians sometimes we teach only one of those two qualifiers when we share the gospel. We say OK, you need to make sure you’re a faithful servant of Christ. Put your faith in God. Just have faith. We leave out the “good” part, and forget to call people to pure holy living. Other only teach the good part. Just focus on being good, check off the boxes, faith isn’t as important, do good works, be good, and you’ll be fine, we leave out faithful.

But Jesus says well done good and faithful servant. We protestants like to leave out the “good” part, well just believe in Jesus. No, believe in Jesus while perfecting holiness in reverence for God. Good and faithful servant.

The master continues and says, because you’ve been trustworthy in a little, I’ll put you in charge over much.

In fact in this parable in Luke, it says in verse 17, “17 “‘Well done!’ the king exclaimed. ‘You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.’ And for the second servant he says, you will be governor over five cities. That is a massive reward. From working with money and investing it, to being in charge of entire kingdoms. That is a huge gift.

It's a great reminder that Christ is watching to see how we’re trustworthy with the little we have in this life.

Alright we’re done, right? Everyone goes to heaven right? Everyone does the right thing. Many preachers today like to edit out the difficult parts of the scriptures, and they create an idol out of God when they do that. It’s disgusting, to twist the scripture to change God’s character to fit what we would prefer. What a shame that is, to twist God’s character to suit our wants and desires. That should offend you. It offends me. It offends God more so, and I would not want to be that preacher on judgment day, trying to explain to God why he twisted his character and only preached the feel good verses.

No, the parable doesn’t end there. There’s a third servant, let’s see what happens next.

“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

The servant actually insults his master, calling him harsh, and basically insinuating that he didn’t do any of the work himself so why should he get the harvest kind of thing. Nasty, rude response. So he didn’t do anything with the money, he hid it underground and gave it back later.

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
-Matthew 25:26–30

I think we get a clue to what Jesus is talking about in verse 29 he says to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance.

I think there is a temptation to take what Jesus has given us, our time, our talents, our abilities, our wealth, and to hide it away. We’re afraid we wont do a good job, that we’ll play off key, that we won’t do it right, that we’ll fail, so we just don’t do anything at all with it. We’re afraid to, of God, and of how he’ll view our work. So we just hide it away and don’t use it.

And for that servant they are called wicked and lazy. The opposite of good and faithful. Instead of good, wicked. Instead of faithful, lazy. Good to know the opposite so we can avoid it.

There will be accountability for those who fail to serve Christ in this life. If we reject his calls to service, if we don’t use the gifts he’s given us, we’ll be held accountable.

And if we do use those gifts and talents for His glory, we will be rewarded. It even says, that the master says, let’s celebrate, he’s so happy, he throws a party for them, because they did well, he says let’s celebrate.

Time to celebrate. Time for perfect existence. Time for a garden perpetual. A garden unending. A peace that never ends. Time to wander the streets of gold, the valleys of golden wheat, the blue mountains, the endless houses, and parties and get togethers and worship times, the moments so balmy they seem like euphoric dreams. The joy and contentment so sweet, sweeter than any dessert, magic nights in the city of God, talking on porches, running and playing with animals, flying through the sky to view the beauty, seeing the infinite God taller than a skyscraper, parts of him moving in and out and shifting and spinning wheels and creatures and angels crying out, and a rainbow, and a sea of glass shifting in the air, glowing stones, lightning and thunder, clouds, and glory, everyday, perfect life, perfect joy, no more controversy, no more rebellion, no more sin.

Well done good and faithful servant. You don’t need me to tell you about talents you know what yours are, use them build for that future which is more real than this life, more real than anything in this world, is that future. Make sure you spend your eternity there build now for there. Amen.